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Reflection of Bishop Denis at the St Brigid’s Camino, Monasterevin Parish

Reflection on Camino Walk: 06.02.23
12.30pm – St. Peter & Paul’s Church, Monasterevin

It is great for all of us to be here! In a year when Brigid is being afforded the first National Public holiday, the people of Kildare would say it has taken a long time for the people of Ireland to catch up with the Lily Whites in honouring and acknowledging one of its own! As with many of our early saints, the line between fact and fiction becomes blurred with the passing of time. As the great authority on St. Brigid, Sr. Rita Minehan reminds us “the more one tries to unravel the mystery, the more the mystery deepens” .

I have looked forward to leading our walk from St. Brigid’s Shrine at Mountrice on the Monasterevin/Rathangan road to St. Peter & Paul’s Church, Monasterevin. St. Brigid’s Shrine in the townland of Umeras lays claim to being the birthplace of Brigid as does Faughart in County Louth. Both have good cause for such assertions; detail can get lost in folklore and legend. Legend records that Brigid was born in a doorway, on a threshold. Maybe she stands at the meeting of two worlds, Rita Minehan wonders again if “the boundaries of Christianity nor the older beliefs can contain her exclusively” .

I think the image of a doorway speaks to us in the Ireland of today. An Ireland of one hundred thousand welcomes, ceád míle failte, but sadly in recent times, not always if you are fleeing persecution, war or trauma. The scenes on our television screens, in papers and particularly on social media disturb, because this is not the hospitality that Brigid espoused. This is not the mindset that Brigid held. As the monk and scholar Cogitosus would remind us, with Brigid “every guest is Christ”. We have responded superbly in every parish community to the plight of Ukraine; a response that has been very generous and fullsome. Let us not blight that track record at this eleventh hour with protest and polemic.

Let us use and continue to use today’s Public Holiday and this coming year to rediscover Brigid once again and her message. While Brigid is everywhere across this island in schools, clubs and shrines, it is here in the county of Kildare and its environs, her pilgrim path is most clearly defined. And today we have carved another route in that pilgrim path. With her we pray:

“Spread thy mantle
O Brigid, Mary of the Gael,
May thy protection never fail.
Spread thy mantle over me,
Where’re I pass, where’re I’ll be;
Weather foul or weather fair,
Keep me in your loving care,
Till I rest, my journey o’er
With God and thee for evermore” .